1933-10 The Sargasso Ogre

Cover Date: October 1933
Volume 2 # 2
Copyright Date: September 15, 1933
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
Bantam Edition # 18, July 1967
Sanctum Edition # 7
Story Length: 49,000 words
WHMC: The collection contains six folders for this story, f.98-103.
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story.

This story starts out in Alexandria, Egypt.  One exciting story segment deals with the catacombs.  The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa is a famous historical site in the ancient city and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Medieval World.

In the prior story, “The Lost Oasis,” it was revealed that Doc Savage had two false molars which contained ingredients that formed a powerful explosive compound when mixed.  These were removed when Doc was captured by Yuttal and the explosive compound was removed.  Doc has restored the false molars replete with explosive compound.  These are probably the ones that Yuttal took.  We can assume he also used chemicals they brought in their packs aboard the Aeromunde to renew the explosive compound.

 

Renny comments that earlier expeditions to the Sargasso Sea have never found so many weeds.  The July 20, 1925, issue of Time Magazine reports oceanographer William Beebee wrapping up an expedition near the Galapagos Islands and setting sail for the Sargasso Sea.  A footnote for the story describes the Sargasso Sea as a place of which “Improbable tales are told of ships embedded permanently” in the weed.

The Daily Sun Times, Thursday, February 19, 1928

Dent capitalizes on the romantic mystery surrounding the Sargasso Sea.

Several of the elements seen in “The Polar Treasure,” “Pirate of the Pacific,” and “The Lost Oasis” are recombined to create one of the best Doc Savage stories of the entire series.

The story’s mastermind, Jacob Bruze, is an evolved version of Captain McCluskey of the Helldiver.  Included is a strong measure of Tom Too’s cunning along with Yuttal’s brutality added to the mix.  Bruze, like McCluskey is a physical powerhouse and Bruze, just like McCluskey, self-assuredly engages Doc in a fight but to no avail.

In “Pirate of the Pacific,” Doc searches the Malay Queen for his three missing companions.  On board the Cameronic, he searches the ship for Bruze in “The Sargasso Ogre.”  The pirate takeover of the Cameronic shares many similarities with the Malay Queen fight.

One likely candidate for Sargasso fleet would be the USS Cyclops (AC-4).  The vessel was a collier used by the US Navy as a coal ship.  Cyclops departed from Bahia on the coast of Brazil on February 22, 1918 heading to Baltimore, Maryland.  After an impromptu stop at Barbados she left on March 4 and was never seen again.

The Los Angeles Times, Monday, April 15, 1918

The July 14, 1930, issue of Time Magazine carried an article, “War Ghosts,” concerning an unverified account that German saboteurs had destroyed the ship with dynamite as part of the German war effort.

The message Doc Savage receives from Scotland Yard reveals that the named ships are those that had disappeared at sea over the last fifteen years.  That would put the earliest date back to 1918 and the same time the USS Cyclops disappeared.

William Hodgson was a prolific English writer of horror and fantastic fiction stories.  His stories were published in the first decade of the 1900s.  He was killed while serving in World War I at Ypres, Belgium.  One of his more popular works, “The House on the Borderland,” was praised by H. P. Lovecraft.  Hodgson’s works appeared in the most popular magazines of his times.  Of particular interest to Doc Savage readers are his Sargasso Sea stories filled with floating wrecks trapped in the weed encrusted sea.

Several types of derelicts are embedded in the weed: clipper, galleon, caravel, battleship, freighter.

The treasure of the Sargasso Sea is valued at six to seven million dollars.

Bruze uses a mirror as a heliograph to signal his men.

A carbide lamp is used. The lamps burn acetylene gas which is created when calcium carbide comes in contact with water in the lamp reservoir.

Arizona Republican, Monday, April 14, 1930

One of the gang members shows up wearing full formal attire and is referred to as a “wag.”  Webster’s definition is “a person given to droll, roguish, or mischievous humor; wit.”

The Cameronic carried $3 million in gold bullion.  Just how much gold would that be?   Using the 400 ounce “London Good Delivery” bar as the basis with gold being valued at $32 per troy ounce would require 234 gold bars. Each bar would weigh about 27.43 pounds.  The total weight of the shipment would be about 6,429 pounds.

At the time of the story the US was going off the gold standard.  The St. Gaudens Double Eagle was the standard $20 gold coin from 1907 until 1933.  This coin weighed 1.075 troy ounces.  Copper was alloyed with the gold to make the coins last longer.  Thus, the actual gold content of a coin was 0.9675 troy ounces.   In size, the $20 gold coin was slightly larger than a George Washing twenty-five cent piece.  The real value of the gold in the $20 gold coin was about $30.96 based on a gold price of $32 per ounce.

If the $3,000,000 was carried in Double Eagle gold pieces, with the coins valued at $30.96 each, the shipment would require 96,899 coins.  The total weight of all coins would be 7,143 pounds because of the gold-copper alloy.


Clive Cussler’s adventure tales often have characters and characteristics reminiscent of the Doc Savage adventures.  One story in particular, “Pacific Vortex,” appears to give a wink and nod to this particular story – “The Sargasso Ogre.”  The story’s villain shares many physical characteristics with Doc Savage along with a version of the Sargasso Sea in the Pacific Ocean.


February 22, 1931 – Vin H. Johnston of Montreal, Canada sends Lester Dent a letter via Top-Notch Magazine with the help of the editor, Mr. Oliphant.  The letter deals with a story by Johnson dealing with the Sargasso Sea.  He is concerned because of similarities between it and Dent’s previously published story, “Death Zone.”  Johnston states his story will be published in book form rather than magazine.  He is asking Dent’s blessing on the similarities. 
Source: WHMC Folder C3701_f3

February 25, 1931 – Lester Dent responds to Vin H. Johnston’s letter.  Dent gives his blessing on the story and comments that stories on the Sargasso Sea are bound to share some similarities even if independently created.  Of interest to Doc Savage readers, Dent mentions “The Isle of Lost Ships” by Crittendon Marriott.  Dent remarks that the movie adaptation appeared shortly after his own Sargasso Sea story was published. 
Source: WHMC Folder C3701_f3